Most people her age are pursuing a career in a mundane office environment. But not 27-year-old Nicole Lim. She prefers being out in the wilderness leading wildlife expeditions and capturing some of wildlife’s most spectacular moments!
This young travel entrepreneur wears many hats.
She is a reputable wildlife photographer who has had her works exhibited by National Geographic, published in Asian Geographic and featured by Nikon. She started Steller Events, a photography agency specialising in event photography, when she was merely 21. She is also the founder of social enterprise Animal Encounters Wildlife Tours , a wildlife ambassador and an experienced wildlife expedition guide.
Set up in 2017, Animal Encounters Wildlife Tours specialises in off-the-beaten-track adventures around Asia that is focused on animals and nature. Being an avid animal lover, Nicole hopes to create fun yet ethical tour experiences for like-minded people.
Did I also mention that Nicole spends her free time volunteering in meaningful animal projects? Wow.
I managed to squeeze in a quick chat with her amidst her busy schedule.
You are one of the lucky few who managed to turn your interests into a career. Tell us more!
Both photography and animals are my passion. In fact, I started photography when I was 19! After trying out many types of photography, I decided that event photography is my favourite because I really enjoy catching moments. So, I started Stellar Events!
After about 5 years focusing on event photography, I felt burnt out. So, I started thinking about how I could do something related to animals because I love having cool yet ethical and mindful experiences with animals.
I realised that there are a lot of people like me but they either do not have the time to plan the trip, or they are unable to find people to go with. That became the problem I sought to solve and Animal Encounters Wildlife Tours became the business solution and the beginning of ‘travel entrepreneurship’ for me!
“I really enjoy making use of a skill set that I possess to enable others to experience that indescribable bond between animals and humans!”
How many wildlife expeditions have you guided so far?
I have personally led more than 10 expeditions overseas!
Some of the highlights include going Japan to soak in the onsen with Snow Monkeys, Malaysia to volunteer for the Sea Turtle conservation programme, USA to volunteer at a Tiger Sanctuary, Thailand to bathe the Elephants, Philippines to snorkel with Whalesharks and Indonesia for the Orangutan river safari.
Many young people dream of making money through travelling. What are some common misconceptions?
I think the biggest misconception is that we just travel and have fun.
Also, most people try the ‘travel blog / instagram’ way but there are many factors needed to make it successful. You need to build a big enough audience, you probably have to be good-looking, you need to be able to first afford to travel on your own, then hope for some company to consider sponsoring or paying you. Even if you get money, you might not even be getting paid a sum enough for your efforts.
It is not easy because the market is saturated!
What are some hardships being an entrepreneur?
While I loved chasing my dreams, there are times when I think people are lucky to be pretty decent at regular office jobs. Choosing an unconventional life path of an entrepreneur is not easy!
It is a lot of work - putting together a package that has a unique selling point, finding a competitive pricing, marketing your services, entertaining potential clients and spending money even when you are not sure if it will work. Cash flow is also an important issue. I have to constantly find ways to get more people for my tours so that I can cover my costs and make some money for my time and effort
You have to do basically everything as an entrepreneur. Life as a solopreneur is not easy, finding partners to work with together is key!
What advice or tips do you have for budding startups then?
Find a niche so that you stand out from just about everyone else!
My approach is to offer niche-travel tours based on my interests such as animals, nature, wildlife and adventure. Even though my age can be a challenge sometimes, the knowledge and experience I am able to show to my guests as I answer their questions give them confidence in me.
Go beyond wanting to travel and getting paid for it. Think of what your skill sets and strengths are instead and use that to your advantage!
Do you have a muse in life?
Definitely my dad!
He loves the outdoors and nature so it is thanks to him that I developed my love for it as well. He is also very entrepreneurial, funny and smart. He taught me to be resourceful and to solve problems instead of seeing problems as a showstopper. He always encourages me to do what I believe in and to have the vision to see what is not there yet.
I learnt a lot from him in terms of entrepreneurship, business, perseverance, and being crazy enough to do just about whatever I want!
These inspiring words by Nicole’s dad came from the very man whose great vision is to send the 1st Singaporean to space - Mr Marvyn Lim Seng! An engineer-turned-entrepreneur and leader of the GoSpace.sg project, Marvyn’s determination and shrewd judgement are admirable traits that every business mind should possess.
What an inspirational daughter-father duo!
Stay tuned for more inspirational stories on local entrepreneurs and businesses!
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